Service Matters – TVs to sigh for

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From the shop to the skip in fourteen months. That was a 32in LCD TV which has just passed through our workshop, and typifies many other recent non-repairs. It was not sold by us, I hasten to add.
Chinese ghosts
The flat-screen era has brought out of the woodwork a host of obscure manufacturers – or in many cases assemblers – whose products are sold through an even larger range of outlets: supermarkets, computer shops, trade component suppliers, chemists; and perhaps butchers for all I know. Mostly originating in China, these panels’ low prices are matched by their poor performance and low build quality. During the obligatory first year guarantee some kind of rudimentary repair service or exchange scheme is operated by their makers or importers. After that any problem they develop is a problem indeed for their hapless owners, without any real form of back-up service: no spares, no service data, no technical advisory service. The profit margins afford no provision for any of these. It’s easy to blame the punter for buying such low-priced rubbish, but the issues go rather deeper than that in these days of ecological awareness. Any product which costs hundreds of pounds and lasts little more than a year or two should be cause for concern, quite apart from the waste of its owner’s money (very often those who purchase this sort of screen can least afford them) and the denial to dealers and repairers the opportunity to service them.
Hitting the buffers
It’s frustrating for those who make a living by solving other people’s problems to get involved with one of these no-name wonder machines. You get the back cover off, you perhaps make some progress towards a diagnosis, (based on the training, help and good offices you’ve already benefited from with ‘proper’ setmakers) and then you need a circuit diagram, a product-specific IC or whatever. Maybe you only need the details of how to get into service mode to set the damn thing up or factory-reset it. That’s when you hit the buffers. Who knows where to find Kybosh, Hi-pong or Totonics? One brand which we’ve had no luck at all with is Sonix, sold in Sainsbury’s a couple of years ago, and now quite untraceable. We have so far scrapped three Sonix LCD screens, none of them very old, for want of (possibly quite simple and inexpensive) parts and data. Do any of our readers know of a source of these? If so please contact me via the magazine.
Some manufacturers are too well-known to twist entirely out of their after-sales responsibilities. These relative newcomers to the scene, not European or Japanese in origin, advertise heavily in the UK and are rightly regarded as front-runners in their innovation, technology and products, but their after-sales and particularly out-of-guarantee service is abysmal. Their technical advice lines are virtually impossible to access, their dealer websites are badly designed and managed, their short-lived spares stockholding (where it exists at all) is confined to large assemblies and boards at high prices. I have known them to have ‘no further stocks’ of parts and accessories even before the guarantee has expired. This is really a way of sticking up one finger or two at their cheated customers and those who try to help them.
There should be a law…
So – this crappy equipment brings little profit to those who sell it, no business to those who seek to repair it, and when it gets into trouble, sheer frustration to the punters who buy it. Should there not, if only for the sake of the Earth, be some sort of UK or European legislation to ensure a reasonable back-up service for, say, six years from the release of ‘large’ electrical products? If so could it for once bear on the manufacturer or importer rather than the already heavily-burdened retailer? It would be more useful than some of the Directives and Acts passed lately in this realm, and if it pushed up prices that would be no bad thing. If necessary it could be done via willing and expert UK third-party providers like CHS, Seme and Willow Vale Electronics. The fear of litigation drives manufacturers and importers like nothing else, and creditable setmakers like Sony, JVC, Panasonic etc. would have absolutely nothing to fear from such a law.

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